Euro elections 2014: Europe and Greece
Following the European Elections of May 25, 2014, bourgeois Europe looks like a devastated region after a disaster. Sinister ghosts of its fascist past are hovering over the political ruins of most of bourgeois center right and center left parties ruling in the European Union, and a persistent threat from the left still is emerging in its Southern periphery, in rebellious Greece and in the Spain of the Indignados.
The on-going world capitalist crisis that rapidly had moved its epicenter in the EU, breaking first the weakest links in Greece and in the periphery, opening an unbridgeable gulf of unbalances between North and South, and destabilizing Eastern Europe, has hurt its “hard core”, especially France. The disastrous political impact on bourgeois rule and on the entire EU project can be seen now in the distorted mirror of the elections to the European parliament.
Mass abstention, breaking all previous records, clearly manifests not apathy but deep disgust for and rejection of the actual corrupt bourgeois political system. The political defeat nearly of all the government parties expresses the anger of the vast population for the draconian EU “austerity” and mass unemployment imposed by all governments following the orders of the bourgeois elites ruling in Brussels and Berlin. The shameful record of the traditional “Left”in power , of social democracy and of its mutated Stalinist allies, as well as the dead end of left reformist and centrist politics that look more and more integrated to the system, made the xenophobic, anti-immigrant far right, right populist and openly fascist parties to pretend to be the only “anti-systemic”, “anti-EU” force winning mass support and an undisputed electoral victory, destabilizing the already weakened governments and EU institutions.
Even the two cases of government parties winning in the European Elections are less “exceptions” than refracted confirmations of the “rule”. The Merkel center right in government in Germany, although coming first in the European polls, has lost considerable support from the last national parliamentary elections in October 2013, and at the same time, the right wing nationalist “Alternative for Germany” got an important vote and for the first time a German Nazi is elected as MEP. The Renzi government's electoral victory, in conditions of a considerable abstention and a peculiar combination of other factors, does not manifest an exit from the protracted regime crisis in Italy.
As a matter of fact, a crisis of political legitimacy raised into a crisis of political power dominates, in one form or degree or another, over all the EU member national States, and in the EU as such.
First symptoms of this sharpening political crisis, in the immediate aftermath of the European Elections, are the abdication of the King Juan Carlos in a Spain plunged in mass unemployment, and facing a constitutional crisis with powerful centrifugal forces in Catalonia and the Basque Country, or, on the level of the EU institutions, the split and quarrels among the European right wing parties around the appointment of Juncker as President of the EU Commission, with Cameron, the British Prime Minister threatening even an exit of Britain from the EU!
The destabilization of political governance is the product of the unresolved social economic systemic crisis. It becomes itself, now, a powerful factor for new political and economic earthquakes as Capitalism, in Europe in recession, is squeezed between the dual pressure of deflation and of a stronger euro, while the capitalist world as a whole enters into a new phase of its post 2008 historic crisis.
The EU, Euro-skepticism, and fascism
Wolfgang Shäuble and other German and EU leaders are lamenting the spectacular rise of the far right and “Euro-skepticism”. Above all, they are terrified by the landslide victory of Marine Le Pen's Front National in France, accompanied by the triumph of Nigel Farage's UKIP in Britain, strengthening all the centrifugal forces in the EU. “A diminished France could spell the end for Europe”, wrote horrified the Financial Times (29/5/2014), reminding that France is the indispensable partner of Germany in forming the axis for the construction of the entire EU and EMU.
Shäuble & Co both in the ruling center right and center left parties hypocritically wish to hide that it was the draconian “austerity forever” imposed by the Berlin and Brussels policy makers, at the service of big capital and of the financial oligarchy, the first responsible for the so called “Euro-skeptic tide” and the fascist Frankenstein of their own making. To add insult to injury, the EU dares to pretend outrage for the rise of fascism in Europe, although it itself used and promoted the openly fascist forces of Svoboda and the Right Sector in Ukraine for “regime change “ in Kiev, and for war against the rebellious people of Eastern Ukraine to transform the country into an EU protectorate!
The European ruling classes proved again their organic incapacity to advance the task of the unification of the Continent -- a historical mission that only the European working class can fulfill on socialist bases. It is the failure of the EU project that makes sections of the bourgeoisie and of the petty bourgeoisie, including parts of the popular strata at large to try to find salvation into the blind alley of economic nationalism.
We should have no doubt: Euro-skepticism, either right or “left” (as the variety supported in Greece by forces inside the Left Platform of Syriza , in Antarsya or by the Plan B of Alavanos) is economic nationalism. The only real alternative to subjugation to the imperialist EU and for a break from this prison of the peoples is not right or “left” Euro-Skepticism but proletarian internationalism, the common revolutionary struggle for a United Socialist States of Europe.
Although there are indeed relative differences between the various trends of Euro-skeptics, of far right movements, and fascist parties in Europe, the international Left either overlook these differences making out of fascism an omnipresent, omnipotent specter, a paralyzing abstraction, or -- and this is the dominant tendency in Western Europe particularly -- it makes absolute these differences (for example between the French National Front and the Greek Golden Dawn). The underestimation of the real danger serves only a course of adaptation to a decaying, dying bourgeois parliamentarian democracy.
The warnings by Trotsky are more topical than ever: “Attempts to save economic life by inoculating it with virus from the corpse of nationalism result in blood poisoning that bears the name of fascism... Only in the historic framework of world development can we assign fascism its proper place. It contains nothing creative, nothing independent. Its historic mission is to reduce to an absurdity the theory and practice of the economic impasse” (see, “Nationalism and Economic Life”, November 30, 1933).
The “theory and practice of economic impasse” is here already for seven years. During the impasse of the Great Depression of the 1930s, amidst the frenzy of economic nationalism, Keynesian and neo-liberal theories and strategies emerged, although both unsuccessful. Now, nothing theoretically new had appeared while neo-liberalism, Keynesianism and all combinations of them in mainstream economics are in shambles. This strategic impasse compounds the failure so far of all practical efforts by the ruling class institutions to overcome the world crisis. In this context, while the national antagonisms are sharpening, the European bourgeoisie still has no other alternative but to keep the EU framework as its only defense from a social explosion. In the 1930s, economic nationalism was endorsed as the dominant policy by the national governments themselves. Now, the same governments, although they are after their own national agendas, shield themselves behind the EU as their last defense. The political rejection of these governments is tied insolubly with the rejection of the EU.
Economic nationalism clashes violently with the much deeper international interconnections built by capitalist globalization, and the EU integration process under German hegemony is obliged to advance through coercion to discipline the European masses, producing thus increasing resistances. Euro-skepticism, including its right wing manifestation in the recent Euro-elections, is a product of this insoluble contradiction, which can be solved only by a social revolution on a European scale.
The zigzags of the social economic crisis lead to abrupt political turns. To intervene in each of these particular turns, a revolutionary Marxist policy has to keep as its guiding line a deepening dialectical understanding of the general development of the world crisis as a whole, in this advanced period of the epoch of capitalist decline.
The 2nd Euro-Mediterranean Conference (Athens, March 31-April 1, 2014) organized by the EEK and the CRFI had as one of its main goals precisely to provide such a theoretical preparation and political basis for an internationalist intervention in the battle for the 2014 European Elections. This intervention, although mainly focused on and limited to Greece, can become a source of important lessons on the future of the class struggle not only in this country but all over Europe.
At the first sight, Greece with the outstanding electoral victory of Syriza, the main force of the Left, appears as an exception to the general rule in the European Union, where right and far right wing forces won the day. Actually, it is a microcosm combining in a peculiar way all the contradictory forces shaping Europe today: insoluble sovereign and private debt crisis, banking crisis, depression, deflationary spiral, mass unemployment, pauperization of the middle classes, social polarization, discredited ruling parties, destabilized political system, rise of fascism, unbroken strength of the workers and popular movement, potential for a sharp left wing turn posing the question of power on the agenda.
It would be a methodological error to formally compare the present electoral results with those in the previous Euro-elections of 2009 or the national elections in 2012, without taking notice of the fact of the totally changed conjuncture in each case.
In 2009, there were still lots of illusions for a solution in the framework of the bourgeois bipartisan political parliamentary system well-established for decades after the fall of the military dictatorship in 1974. For this reason, George Papandreou’s PASOK won a big but also its last electoral victory in October 2009.
In the May 2012 inconclusive parliamentary elections the old system collapsed, the small left reformist Syriza was catapulted into the position of the Official Opposition and for the first time the Nazi “Golden Dawn” powerfully emerged from the margins to enter Parliament. In the June 2012 new elections an unstable polarity was formed: on one side, Samaras' right wing New Democracy sustained by the remnants of PASOK and the small DIMAR, a right wing split from Syriza, and on the other side Syriza itself.
While in 2012 the bipartisan system was in ruins, after two years, in May 2014, no bipolar system is yet stabilized or has replaced it (as the Stalinists of the KKE claim).
The 2012 three-party coalition in government became a two-party coalition in 2013, with the departure of DIMAR after the scandalous closing down of the National Radio-Television ERT by government decree following the troika's directive; the remaining two-party coalition saw its electoral base shrink in 2014 by 12 points, with the former all powerful PASOK diminished into Lilliputian dimensions, the right New Democracy falling into unprecedented low levels, while their “left” ex-partner in the 2012 government implementing troika's orders, DIMAR, has evaporated into nothingness.
From the other side, Syriza won the first position, gaining a distance of four points from the Right. For the first time, in modern Greece's history, a party of the Left won this prominent place in parliamentary elections. The clear victory of Syriza over the ruling right-wing coalition in the European Elections is combined with its successes in the local government elections of May 18 and 25, where it won the biggest region, Attica, where one third of the Greek population lives, came close to win even the Athens Municipality and won control of a number of town halls particularly in working class and popular areas. Nevertheless, it was not the landslide victory that Syriza had publicly put as its ambitious target to oblige the present government to call early parliamentary elections. Although keeping still a significant majority among the masses, because of people's expectations for a change from the present catastrophic situation, Syriza's vacillations, its right wing turns and adaptation to the EU, the IMF, NATO and capitalism over the last two years spread doubts and disappointment.
The Right saw its electoral base shrinking and its allies crashing while the reformist Left is advancing but on a slower tempo and without winning the support of allies for a future coalition government with Syriza in its core. Both New Democracy and Syriza, in the present configuration of forces as it is recorded in the electoral results, are unable to form a government either alone or in coalition with others. Political instability is exacerbated. The Right is searching desperately to find a very short term solution by absorbing parliamentarians from the dying parties to stay a bit longer in power. Syriza is also making desperate openings to its right, as it was seen also in its lists in the recent European and local government elections. Tsipras in an interview to the pro-government newspaper To Vima on the eve of the Euro-elections said openly that a “national salvation consensus” is not out of question, if the leaderships of New Democracy and PASOK change. Sectors of the ruling capitalist class support more and more the scenario of a “national unity government”. It is not an accident that the first speech made by Tsipras after the Euro-elections was to the Confederation of Greek Industrialists (SEV), proposing a “social contract” between labor and capital on wages and jobs. Such a deal, of course, for “national unity” and class collaboration will be disastrous both in social and political terms, feeding only the fascist demagogy of the growing Nazi “Golden Dawn”.
Despite the belated and “benign” State reaction against the “Golden Dawn” imprisoning some of its leaders, after the massive outcry following the killing of Pavlos Fyssas in 2013, the Nazis have become spectacularly the third political force in the country, doubling their vote particularly in the impoverished popular and working class areas. Not only the bourgeois State was not the instrument to stop Nazism, as the bourgeois democrats and reformists claimed, but the links of Greek Nazism with the bourgeois repressive State machine are now stronger than ever: half of the Police voted for the Nazis and two of the three “Golden Dawn” elected MEPs are high rank generals of the Greek Armed Forces.
Nevertheless, fascism is far from winning the battle in a class war that is still in its initial stages. The popular majority looks for a solution to its problems to the left, first of all to Syriza hoping for an improvement by parliamentary means. For this reason the vote for other parties of the Left, from the KKE to the extra-parliamentary Left, like Antarsya or the EEK, was under great pressure.
The Stalinist KKE, keeping its extreme sectarian hostility to Syriza and all other left formations, pretends to be “satisfied” in its isolation by winning a 6 per cent of the vote in the Euro-elections, far away not only from the recent 26.5 per cent of Syriza but above all from its past hegemony in the Left throughout the history of the workers movement in Greece.
The extra-parliamentary Left did much better in the local government elections, on May 18, demonstrating its deepening roots in the most radicalized section of the workers, the youth, and the popular strata. Antarsya won nearly 130 thousand votes (2.3 per cent nationally), a great advance from the 98.000 votes of the previous local government elections of October 2010. The EEK collaborated successfully in many working class areas with Antarsya and other forces of the revolutionary left, and in Dafni-Ymittos, where it led the list, with Comrade Yorgos Mitrovgenis as candidate for Mayor, got the best vote rate nationally of all far left lists (7.5 per cent, up from 6 per cent in 2010), electing two seats (previously the EEK had one).
But, one week later, in the Euro-elections, the extra-parliamentary far left lost most of its vote that moved towards Syriza. Antarsya – a coalition of ten organizations -- got 40 thousand votes (0.7 per cent) losing two thirds of its vote, while the independent list of the EEK, cut undemocratically from the mainstream mass media and based only on the self sacrifice of its militants and supporters was limited into a marginal position with 4.511 votes (0.08 per cent). During the campaign, the EEK was able to expand its influence and interaction with new audiences. It is characteristic for an understanding of the transition through which Greece is passing now that most of the people in dialogue with the EEK, quite often said : “This time, we will try to find a way out by voting Syriza; but the next step for us, if that fails, is the revolutionary road - you! ”
Elections provide, as Engels had stressed a “distorting mirror” of moods and contradictory tendencies within a society in motion, in one particular moment of this movement. The picture given by the European Elections of May 2014 in Greece and all over the European Union, although blurred and distorted, cannot hide the essential truth: Europe has become the battlefield of a protracted confrontation between irreconcilable social and political forces with world historical implications.
June 3, 2014